Blanchette: Impaired judgment at WSU
The beat goes on for Team Spliff.
Washington State’s athletic department drew its line in the sand with the Pullman police Wednesday, and at the same time muddied its own code of conduct.
DeAngelo Casto, peeping-tommed by cops who alleged he was rolling a doob in his apartment in the wee hours Tuesday morning, quite properly lawyered up and contested the charge on Wednesday – and then, not so properly, was summarily unsuspended and started the Cougars’ NIT quarterfinal win over Northwestern that night.
Now the Cougars board a plane to New York for the JV tournament’s semis. On the plus side, they won’t have to go through customs when they land.
Or they could drive. Is Ken Kesey’s old “Further” bus available?
In the traveling party will be three players – Casto, Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore – who have been cited within the last three months for some form of possession of marijuana, in police actions ranging from routine to dubious to “Are you kidding me, Mr. Junior G-man?” That’s 60 percent of the starting lineup for you stat geeks.
No wonder the Cougars are such a good passing team. If you don’t bogart off the court, the theory must go, you won’t bogart on it.
And now they even pass on their established standards.
From the school’s official statement Tuesday: Casto was “suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules” by coach Ken Bone, who was quoted as being “disappointed in DeAngelo as he let himself and his teammates down.”
Then, on Wednesday, a miracle! No violation!
In clearing Casto to play, athletic director Bill Moos, again in a school-issued statement, referenced “new information” and “unique circumstances.”
He didn’t specify the new and unique stuff, but it’s pretty obvious: the bust was a Buford T. Justice job. A screen missing from Casto’s window in an area hit by recent burglaries was Deputy Peepers’ idea of probable cause to espy the, uh, smoking gun. Casto was asked to give up his goody bag and complied. No search warrant was issued or served.
You know what they say about safe sex – no glove, no love? Be warned, Wazzu students: no drapes, no dope.
Moos explained Wednesday that “the team rule we thought (Casto) violated, he contested. I think he’s got some meat to that. I like to get out in front of these things and probably in retrospect we should have let it play out.”
Hold on. The legalities notwithstanding, the police report said what Casto handed over was marijuana and not pocket lint. Still sounds like a violation of a team rule. Or is it a team rule only if the arrest is by the numbers?
According to Moos’ statement, “The appropriate avenue to take is to allow the legal system to run its course.”
Hmm. Let’s jump to a pertinent passage from WSU’s Student-Athlete Handbook:
“In the case of behavioral problems which involve formal criminal charges by a law enforcement agency, the involved student-athlete will be placed on suspension by the Department of Athletics until the facts of the incident are reviewed.”
So, in effect, Cougar athletics has no code of conduct – or an elastic one.
“I don’t like to take a firm stand on a bowl of Jell-O,” Moos said. “I would say because of the information we got today, it puts the whole thing in a different perspective.”
The perspective here is that reinstating Casto was as situationally sketchy as the bust. But let’s move on to two bigger questions that Moos squared up to address:
Does Cougar athletics, or at least the basketball team, have a drug problem?
“There’s a drug problem on this campus,” he said. “I know the president is concerned about it.”
Regarding his own playpen, Moos was blunt: “I’m not sure we have a championship mentality here. We have to instill in our student-athletes a mentality that Saturday’s game is more important than tonight’s party. We’re in a location that has a lot of positives, but Pullman is also extremely visible and our young people need to be aware of that.”
He also admitted, “We have to get our disciplinary act together.”
Are Wazzu athletes being targeted by the Pullman police?
“I have a concern about that,” Moos said. “College Hill is not the collegial, fun, exciting place I remember as a student-athlete, or even working here 25 years ago. It’s become, in my observation, in the minds of the authorities in Pullman the ‘bad part of town.’ I don’t think that’s serving anyone very well.”
The sorts of piddly arrests and citations that make the news in Pullman would be pour-out-your-beer and flush-your-stash warnings in larger cities. But this might be just the sort of enforcement previous WSU administrations sought to tame a campus culture – and it may still be what full-time residents prefer. Might be time for some public forums on that issue.
Oddly enough, Moos met with Pullman police chief Gary Jenkins Tuesday – arranged long ago – to discuss the dynamic. The Casto affair is likely to be the wedge needed to keep that exchange going.
“But we still need to address the drug issue in this department,” Moos said. “In a perfect world, if the Pullman police or campus police wanted to target our athletes, there would be nothing to target.”